By Zaldy Comanda
BAGUIO CITY – The city council has backed the stand taken by media groups in opposing a move that would compel them to become witnesses and signatories to documents involving illegal drug operations.
Vice Mayor Edison Bilog led the council in approving last January 14 a resolution “strongly supporting the petition of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Baguio-Benguet Chapter and the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC) to exclude media practitioners as witnesses, and from signing copies of the inventory of contraband/s and other item/s seized during anti-drug raids/operations.”
Bilog said the council passed the resolution “to protect the integrity and welfare of the media practitioners.”
The resolution noted that Section 21 (1) and (4) of Republic Act No. 9165, or known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 spelled out procedures in the handling of seized contrabands, including the signing of the inventory and the items’ eventual destruction.
A media representative was among those identified to serve as a signatory and witness to these activities.
“As a consequence of the Act, representatives from the media are required to sign the copies of the inventory during drug raid, then to be present in the burning and destruction of confiscated drugs and paraphernalia, and lastly they would still be involved after criminal charges were filed.
Also, the signing of copies of inventory during such operation was set as a condition in allowing media practitioners to cover the operations though they are optional witness or witnesses,” the resolution noted.
“Such provisions of the law put journalists at danger as they become a participant/s against illegal drug operations, they may be at risk of retaliation from crime syndicates, and during the prosecution of criminal complaints, it may place them and possibly expose them to prosecution from perjury and other offenses in the event of irregularities.”
“During the 10th National Congress of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), a resolution was passed urging the amendments of Section 21 of the above Act seeking the role of journalists to be removed and not to require them as a witness on anti-drug operations and to limit media participation in drug raids to only media coverage for journalism purposes.”